Four troubled teens, with nothing to do in their empty lives and no one to turn to for guidance, are tormented by all facets of society.
The film explores a wide variety of situations in high school life, far more than the "school bullying" theme it claims to be about. In fact, the school bullying issue is relatively minor, with the impact of parents playing a bigger role. There is also the drug angle, the idea of conformity, and the legitimacy of school authority. As an outcast myself in high school, I knew that high school authority was not a role model. Despite getting excellent grades, I was not looked highly upon by the administration and was repeatedly suspended and ultimately expelled. Had "troubled" kids done what I had done, they would have been excused.
While seemingly simple on the surface, I think there is much that can be discussed here. The idea of "blackness" being about culture rather than color I think was an interesting topic. One of the main characters is black, but prefers Willie Nelson over rap. What does it mean to be black? Is Snoop Dogg more black than Denzel Washington? Is President Obama black, despite being raised by a white mother? Willie Nelson was also called out as having lyrics of substance, pushing the idea that anything is possible, and how he was able to express in song what it feels like to go crazy. Whether the Nelson references were meant seriously or jokingly by the creators, I am not sure. But I have to suspect seriously. And while I am not a huge Willie fan, one has to admire his lasting influence on music as a whole. Too few people are aware that some of Elvis Presley's best hits were Willie Nelson songs first. Willie was rock before there was rock.
The casting was perfect in every way, but especially for Will's dad. He plays the part in a very believable way, and his anger towards his son did not seem like an act but real passionate hatred. The acting gets better in the second half, too, when everything gets dark. I have to give a lot of credit to any actors who are willing to take part in an anal rape scene or a situation involving forced incest. Also, credit to the writers and director for making these things seem real and not comedic.
The inclusion of the Bill O'Reilly photo confused me, because it added a political element that I think was not necessary. This was not a film about liberals or conservatives, it was more about power and oppression. A principal's authority over students is not guided by his political ideology, and likewise the homophobic, racist tendencies of rednecks need not be seen as a conservative view (though that tends to be the stereotype).
I would recommend this film. It may be less than perfect due to a low budget, but this was the sort of production where the people in charge knew their limitations and stayed in a safe framework. I could have used fewer F-bombs (the Cory character sets a new record in this film), but that is just me. I would love to see this film remade with a bigger budget and get a better distribution (with all due respect to the guys at Breaking Glass, who are amazing). But, until then, check it out.